There’s a list I think we all should have. It’s kinda silly, but then so is life.

It’s about your heart, and how it appreciates the world around you.

Not your mind . . . that cold gray blob of reason, analyzing and working things out and planning and thinking about buying more stuff, because it’s there dammit!  Okay, I still do this myself, too . . .  I don’t want to talk about it. It’s fine to enjoy those things, too. Just don’t forget to enjoy, well, Life!

This is about what makes you truly happy. You’d be surprised: It’s mostly little things.

I beseech you, make a list of these things and tack it up where you can see it. Life gets busy–it would be a shame to get to the end of it and realize you missed all the good stuff. (Hint: the good stuff are moments, the things you can take with you).

“Failure is never quite so frightening as regret.”

~Cliff Buxton in The Dish

Just to get you started, I’ll give you a peek at my list:. I’ve had it for 4 years now and I haven’t had to change it much. You’re welcome. =)

My Live Life List

* Dream of living in Paris.

* Skip stones.

* Play an instrument

* Ride your bicycle everywhere.

* Listen for the train whistles.

* Write in cafes.

* Believe you can fly … look at airplanes you might want to buy.

* Feel beautiful, because you are.

* Know that your own Amelie will come to you when the time is right.

* Believe in love (and True Love).

* You are amazing and special and the right friends will always be there to appreciate this.

* If the beat strikes you, then Dance!

* Be in love with being in love.

* Remember: What would Melva do in this situation?

* Empathy – always.

* Cry when you need to.
Laugh when you can.
Smile all the time.
Happiness is contagious and will make its way back to you.

* Live your life! Because you can do it better than anyone else can.

None of it was my idea.

The yard was about 200 feet long and 50 feet wide, as well as you could see from the rusty chain link fence barely peeking out at spots above the overgrowth. It was about the size of the entire first floor of the old lady’s row house behind me, and every living cell of it was my problem. There must have been a million weeds, living and dead, in that yard and every one of them had my name on it.

The place is inner-city Baltimore. The time is somewhere in my twelfth year. The idea was my stepfather’s, his not-so-subtle nudging to make something of myself. So I decided I would loan out whatever services I might offer: cleaning, dusting, fetching groceries, whatever came up. I’d chosen the less-scary elderly apartment complex up the street from the row house we’d just moved into from a more suburban existence near Denver.

There wasn’t much of me back then to go around, but I would see what I could do. If no one wanted me, then I could simply go back to having a childhood again. That’s what I really wanted.

Instead, I got a stack of index cards. I was instructed to write an ad detailing my services on every one of them . . . the same message over and over again. It was my first public writing, my first paid writing, too. If you don’t count the slimy bits.

Oh, right. We haven’t gotten to the slimy bits yet.

But I’m not thinking about slimy bits . . . I’m still back earning a good case of childhood carpal tunnel copying one card to the next, by hand. The job was already becoming more than I wanted to do and I hadn’t even started working yet. Finally it was done. I’d have to distribute them now. I suddenly wished I had a few thousand more cards to copy.

I came home from school the next day and the cards were waiting, along with instructions that they all would be distributed today or else. So I set out slinking my way through all four floors of the building jamming the cards in the handles of the doors, not sure if I wanted anyone to notice them or not. A little money would be good, but a little freedom to be a kid for a while longer seemed more important at the time.

Not one tenant responded.

I was quietly relieved, though I made a show of being disappointed at home. If only I had thought to throw away the half-dozen or so cards I had leftover.

“What are these?”

“Leftover cards.”

“You didn’t pass them out? Don’t you want a job?”

“I got all of the apartments…”

“Then pass the rest out to the houses next door. They might have work, too.”

Any other kid my age would have gone out and found a trashcan or dumpster to throw them into, then wandered about for a couple of hours before coming home with a hopeful look on her face. I’m not wired that way. Once I said I’d do something, I felt compelled to do it, whether I wanted to or not. I’m the same way today—only now I make certain I want to do something before I open my mouth.

Only one call came in. It would be my only handy-kid job of the summer, so of course it was the worst kind of hell imaginable. It seemed doable enough over the phone: Clear a weed-infested garden. But what was described as a garden became an entire back yard, and as soon as I saw it I knew whatever I was being paid, it wasn’t enough. No one had touched this yard in years and now a scant twelve-year-old was expected to clear it completely of vegetation, with her hands. The little old lady who owned this travesty took one look at me and shook her head before disappearing back inside her cool dark house.

JNS.CityTallWeeds3Sighing, I set to work.

It was hot and muggy that summer, as it usually was on the east coast. The little old lady never once came out to offer me a drink of water or suggest I take a break. I wondered if she’d forgotten I was even out there. Then again, I wasn’t smart enough to bring something with me when I showed up in the morning.

The job took weeks. Grab a stalk of unknown vintage and pull. Sometimes they pulled out of the gritty, coal cinder rich soil; sometimes they snapped off just above it. Sometimes I couldn’t get them to budge. I ruined a good pair of old sneakers kicking at the soil until I got the roots up. I was not to be paid if one stalk shown above the dirt. I feared instead she would charge me for how much of the itchy dirt I was walking away with—on my arms, under my drenched T-shirt, in my hair. Pulling weeds of this caliber made for a lot of flying earth, despite how weakly I perpetrated the maneuver.

The live weeds were thick, flexible and sticky; the dead ones raspy and dry, poking or burning my skin. Both reeked of a bitter sweet smell of yearning life and imminent death, some more pungent than others. The dirt smelled of long dead coal and even deader life, a wet earthiness mixed with the smell of long ignored excrement from creatures I would never identify.

I would be hard-pressed to tell you what the best part of the job was. I simply don’t remember one. Payment was definitely a letdown after all that work. Calling it a day at dinnertime was suspect, as well, since I felt so sore limping the half-block back home. I knew then that hell was a place where there were no good things to mention about your day.

The worst part was easy to identify: this is the slimy part.

For years a biosphere had evolved within that jungle of weeds. A deep dark forest of live and long dead weeds three to four feet high, shading the ground far beneath from the summer sun and heat. Every slimy creature on the block must have slowly migrated to this one place where survival was assured—until I came along. To these mucous-laden creatures I was the equivalent of an earthmover in a tropical rain forest, laying waste to the habitat of generations of their kind.

But they got their revenge. It seemed that for each weed I pulled there was a corresponding slug, snail or beetle waiting to be pulled up with it—and more often than not they were attached about where I had to grasp the offending plant to pull it free.

You would have to know just how squeamish I am about such things. Even now. And through the entire job I never got used to the feeling of a small life squishing and oozing between my fingers, my already dirty jeans slick with their bodies as I tried to rid myself of that feeling.

But if I decided to quit without finishing what I’d promised to do, there would be hell to pay when my parents found out. Most residents in that part of town avoided contact with their possibly dangerous neighbors or—especially—their children. My stepfather sought them out, seeming to know things you thought he could never find out. The job went on.

Summer days literally melted into each other. Day after day I set about my work. Then one day a small treat, the sky rumbling and darkening with the portent of cool rain. Fate finally merciful, granting a reprieve from the blistering heat and stench of sweat. But it would make little difference: I was practically an automaton now. I had built up a tiny bit of muscle by this time, so things went a little bit faster, but it didn’t matter: there was no end to this hell on weeds.

This is why I stared blankly when my fingers struck something new. Thick metal wires, vertically entwined with the weeds stretching to either side. It was the yard’s long forgotten back fence. I was at the end.

You might think that this would have cheered me, but somehow it only made me feel the pain in my shoulders more as my mind tried to gauge how many more weeds I would have to pull before the job was finally done. And when I finally pulled the last weed and tossed it onto the huge pile to be carted away by the city, I could only look at the back fence and the continuation of weeds on the other side and wonder: Why had I bothered? New weeds would soon grow up in this place and the cycle would start all over again. Such was my mindset when I trudged home, with a meager stipend in my pocket.

I made a small name for myself that summer as a “good worker”, someone who “finished the job” and “kept their word,” and perhaps I have brought these values forward in my life. But I have also never liked working out in the garden, I have somehow become allergic to too much sun exposure and if anyone mentions “weeding” I’m already packing my bags.

It’s no wonder I ended up a computer programmer for my first career, safely ensconced in an air conditioned tower at a comfortable desk, a window looking out on a courtyard made of concrete, far from any weeds…

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m seduced by pretty boxes (and shame on some of you for what you’re thinking). To some degree, we all must be, judging by the sheer amount of creativity and colorfulness we see walking down the aisle of our neighborhood grocery store. But most of us are so used to the advertising noise in these settings that we’ve tuned them out as unconsciously as we surf channels to escape commercials..

boxBut for me, and other box lovers out there, there’s just something enticing about a well designed containment unit. Be it a lovingly designed, perfectly fitted hinged affair made of daintily-thin wood, or a shiny aluminum big cousin to the Altoids tin, there’s just something about a well-crafted portable storage space that makes me happy.

For example, my last attempt at buying an appropriate gift for a friend fell into this latter format: a beautiful silver case the size of a fat ebook, hinged, with a pretty olive green sleeve lovingly describing its contents. In this “case,” it was a set of those magnetic words some of us enjoy littering the front of our refrigerators with, for randomly arranging pithy quotes, silly poems, or lurid insults to unsuspecting future appliance users.

It wasn’t until after my starry-eye-inducing purchase was safely out of sight in it’s frumpy paper bag, when I was well on my way home, that I began to realize that perhaps a set of magnetic words for creating poetry … as a present to a poet … might be like giving a teddy bear to a taxidermist: an exercise in the superfluous..

I’m often proud of myself for thinking outside of the box in most situations, but I also need to stop admiring the damn box while I’m out there*. The poet agrees: we’ll be revisiting the store to find something a little more appropriate for her.

Perhaps something in a cute little box …

[ * And lo, when I get home with an especially lovely little box, I find myself wondering what I will do with it . . . or any of the others I’ve collected to date. I don’t want to talk about it. ]

Perhaps you’ve noticed: I have a time machine.

It’s a lovely little gizmo manufractured by WordPress, designed to allow wily writers to schedule blogs for future dates. But beware, it sometimes goes awry! More than once I’ve accidentally sent a blog into the next millennium. (If you read something from me in 2415, will you please send it back? I miss it.)

Tardis Love PoemBut what’s really cool is that the scheduler can be fooled into sending things back in time, too, . . . like to those quiet Sundays when you’re far too busy doing absolutely nothing to have time to write. Or after an unexpected Procrastinators’ Holiday. Yes, of course, they’re actual holidays! They just never got around to putting them on your calendar. But you’ll know them when you see them . . . usually in retrospect, like I do.

On days like this I sneak in and fire up my handy time machine. Shhhh . . . Don’t tell anyone, but I’m using it right now. ~giggle~

So . . . if you’re ever disappointed I haven’t written something on a given day (hey, I’m allowed to dream, right?), but then feel silly a few days later when you see a lovely little blog in what was once an empty spot, . . .  it has nothing at all to do with me tearing a gaping rent in the space-time continuum so I can sneak a post into the past to fill in my blog-a-day world. It just means you’re silly.

Because It’s my job to spread silliness whenever I go: past, present or future.

[ Tardis love poem belongs to So there. ]

Here’s a poem about a well-known person, from the perspective of another . . .

It goes something like this . . .

The Hand that Moves Me

He made me not in his image
For his skin was not green
But my voice was his voice
His fingers my expression

He made me from a discarded coat and
Ping pong balls when he was fifteen
I shake my head now, realizing
I’m older than he would ever be

He took to TV with a gang of felt misfits
Painting numbers and ideas on the screen
A once-dying program suddenly
becoming a Street unending

He made me bold, to mask his shyness
What he could not say, I was always keen
So much felt came to life by his hands
A creature shop came to be, where

He made amphibian, barnyard expats and rats
Uninhibited vegetables and fruit were routine
He’d created five children, who I met young
Toiling at his shop, just to be close to him

He hid behind me in confounding ways
Shielding himself behind his dream
While I play banjo in a swamp, singing of rainbows
Or riding a bicycle with skinny new legs

He gave me seven weeks on the Top 40
My own star on the walk of fame, unforeseen
You, your parents, your children all know me
But it was his voice, his dream all along

He left us in 1990, breathlessly snatched away
But the dream must go on: we reconvened
Finally honoring a lifetime of selfless genius
By looking down and feigning shock

He has been greatly missed. Sigh . . . I don’t want to talk about it.